Travelers and businesspeople reacted calmly Tuesday to Japan Airlines Corp.’s filing for bankruptcy and restructuring.
The bankruptcy is a turning point for what had been the country’s flagship carrier since 1951.
Kimihiro Konagamo, a 49-year-old company employee in Kitakyushu who arrived at Haneda airport in the morning on business, said he seldom flies JAL.
“I don’t have many opportunities to take JAL. I usually fly with Starflyer domestically, and for international flights I often use Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways from Fukuoka Airport,” he said, noting JAL offers few international flights from Fukuoka.
Starflyer is a small carrier that links Kitakyushu and Haneda.
“The reconstruction of JAL isn’t big news for me, although it must be for those who are working there,” he said. “Besides, it’s quite expensive to fly with JAL” compared with Starflyer.
Hiroshima businessman Koji Sakata, 30, was also little fazed by JAL’s bankruptcy filing.
“I took JAL this time,” he said. “But for business, I use JAL or ANA.”
He said he isn’t worried as long as other carriers are available.
Although he has a JAL mileage card, he said he only flies five or six times a year.
“For my personal trip, I’ll choose an airline depending on the price,” he said.
Sakata, however, was surprised by the large presence of ground staff serving JAL passengers Tuesday.
“At Hiroshima airport, I saw a banner saying ‘Thank you for flying with JAL.’ I found it a bit unusual,” he said.
Hiroshi Shimamoto, 65, who flew JAL to Tokyo on a business trip from Osaka, blamed the carrier’s mismanagement for its misfortune.
“They’re such a big company, so they have been spoiled for many years,” said Shimamoto, who travels to Tokyo once a month. “They have been privileged and thought they were a special corporation.”
He added that companies often weather tougher situations without government help.
“I will carefully observe how (JAL) will be reconstructed,” he said, adding canceling some local flights to small cities will be necessary for better management.
“Why does each prefecture have to have an airport?” he asked. “There are not enough passengers in some places.”
Yumi Saito, 34, a nurse who came to Tokyo for sightseeing with a friend from Kitakushu, hopes regional flights remain intact.
“The good thing about JAL is that they have flights to small towns. It’d be really inconvenient if I had to go to Fukuoka Airport,” Saito said.
She was also concerned about her JAL mileage because she always uses the carrier and a designated credit card to accumulate points. “I’m relieved to know they’re likely to be protected.”
Oita Prefecture housewife Taeko Nagao strongly hopes JAL remains the country’s flagship carrier.
“What would other countries think if the formerly state-run airline had gone bankrupt?” she asked. “JAL has a long history, and I think we should support it.”
She said she uses JAL about three times a year but this time flew on a smaller airline with friends because it was cheaper.